Manchester Punk Festival 2023

author MAK date 19/04/23

Easter weekend in Manchester can only mean one thing, the return of the DIY punk event Manchester Punk Festival; A metropolitan style festival held in the heart of Manchester city centre across various venues. Punk fans from all across the world flood the festival which flaunts over 140 acts over four days, including the warm up show.

The event is a volunteer run weekend put together by a combination of DIY promoters, labels and overall fans of the scene that a majority of the bands perform in. Key figures behind everything to do with organising MPF include TNS Records, Moving North and Anarchistic Undertones.



The festival was spread out to seven venues in the city center of Manchester. While the initial day and a half was a constant Google Maps exercise (they should print some maps and place them in and around the venues), the distances were short and the routes between the venues were easy to navigate.

The Union

The largest stage at the festival is located within the confines of the Manchester Metropolitan University Student’s Union. It’s a large hall that, to be honest, feels more like a conference center than an actual venue, but it is at least large and can house pretty much the whole festival at once, give or take.



Built underneath a railway bridge, Gorilla is the most venue-like of the venues. It’s a dark room with claustrophobic entrances and no mobile phone signal whatsoever - and features huge queues to the bar due to its tight layout. On the flip side, the sound is very good and the venue is perfect for intimate, but medium-sized concerts. It’s the second-largest venue at the festival.

The Bread Shed

The Bread Shed is a pub with a stage. Its dark interiors are reminiscent to the Underworld in London, but with a lower stage. With a capacity of 480 and a solid selection of beers on tap, it’s probably the best venue experience at the festival overall.

Zombie Shack

Zombie Shack

Zombie shack is the most unique of the venues. You traverse up a spiral staircase next to some dumpsters into a bridge by the looks of it, and inside you’ll find a Hawaiian-themed tiki bar. Very small, and a cool venue overall.


Yes is an interesting multi-floored venue, the ground floor is a bar/ vegan food eatery. In contrast to last year, the performance area had been moved from the intimate 100 cap basement to the slightly more spacious first floor room. This made sense as it seemed the basement hit capacity quite often, giving punters now more of a chance to see the acts they would like.


Sandbar was more of a social bar/pub that had a decent-sized closed-off section that could be used for podcasts as well as a poetry comedy stage. They do a very nice stone-cooked pizzas. It was very much just a place to chill out.


Used mostly as a nightclub with a decent-sized stage to it, maybe 200-300 capacity at a push. A safe DIY gig-type venue, the door is pretty close to the front of the stage so the crowd can fill up very quickly once things get going.

Manchester Area Vibes

Walking around central Manchester is an experience. The sheer amount of craft beer bars, numerous restaurants, and other watering holes is staggering. Not to mention the street food options at Hatch, where festival attendees could get 10% discount on beers from Öl. You are spoilt for choice with food and drink options in the areas near the venues. DIrectly outside The Union there was a vegan friendly food stool which served burgers and hotdogs among other things. While I didn’t try it, it was definitely the busiest eaterie I saw all weekend. If you wanted something more at a budget, the stretch on the main road that ran parallel to The Bread Shed had a wide range of fast food eateries that catered to all dietary preferences.


  • The area around Thomas Street is brilliant for outdoor terrace type beers early in the afternoon if it’s good weather
  • Book flights and hotels early: it’s Easter time and a bank holiday weekend, which means prices quickly skyrocket
  • Make a plan to see at least two or three bands a day you don’t even know by name based on the official booklet recommendations - so many gems awaiting discovery here.
  • Be early if it’s the first set of the day - or if it’s Zombie Shack.
  • Drink the 4-4.3% beer - you’ll last way longer than if you neck IPAs all day long
  • The toilets in The Union aren’t the best in terms of toilets to punters ratio, quite often there are hefty queues, if possible I recommend using facilities elsewhere.


While One of the more amusing things about Manchester Punk Festival, is that no matter what the weather forecast tells you, for the third MPF in a row, once it gets to midday on Friday and the wristband lines open, you are guaranteed great weather, even if it is in a city that is notorious for being rather wet. It’s like nature knows it’s MPF time and we are treated to glorious sunshine for several days until the festival ends, which in fact it did rain shortly after Wonk Unit finished on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Bruise Control @ 15:00-15:30 at The Union

Much like last year with Aerial Salad, Manchester Punk Festival opened up with one of the city's own rising punk bands, this time in the form of the ever charismatic Bruise Control. Who provided us with their brutish fast punk and boozy swagger. Frontman Jimbob paced around the stage with his "BORN T’ BOOZE" tattoo on show and oozed rockstar charm, shouting at us with his throat tearing vocal style while the band behind him unloaded a wave of raw garage-punk fuzzy riffs and pounding beats. A sound that is hard hitting, but loaded still with enough melody to make it catchy enough to stick in your head. Impressively as the first band of the day at the sizable Union stage, the room was filled with eager fans. While not too wild, you could look around the room at people nodding their heads in appreciation, or at least looking on with a smile on their face. You could see towards the front that fans were singing along and throwing their hands in the air, with popular hit “Taxman” receiving great reception from the audience. A strong opening set from a band that you can tell is going places. With a new album on the horizon, we expect that the next time they perform MPF it will be a higher up slot. [7]

The Human Project @ 15:50-16:20 at The Union

When it was announced that technical skate punks The Human Project were calling it a day, this became a must see set, being this would be the last time to witness the musical wizardry. That is exactly what we got as frantic shredding riffage exploded from the stage along with a whirlwind of chaotic drumming at a multitude of mindblowing time signatures. The aggression was met with epic sounding melodic cleans in the chorus, which you could see fans towards the front eagerly singing along to. The likes of “Knocked For Six” and “Desperate Measures” had a lot of vocal encouragement. The room surprisingly wasn’t quite as full as it was for Bruise control, but the reaction had stepped up a notch with more fans banging their heads with vigour to the harder hitting elements. I might have expected more pit action, but in all honesty it was great just to stand and watch the great musicianship on show. The Human Project remained one of the most enchanting bands to watch until the very end of their tenure. [7]

Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Faintest Idea @ 16:40-17:10 at The Union

Following the recent release of their phenomenal album “The Road To Sedition'', there was no doubt this was up there as one of the sets I was most excited for this weekend. Right from the start, opening with the horn-filled instrumental track “The Machine Stops”, the circle pits and skank pits opened and it was relentless from start to finish. Following right into "Kill Em Dead" and fans were immediately shouting words "FALSE IDOLS FALL, ALL GODS MUST DIE, AS WE KILL THEM DEAD" back towards the stage, immediately you could tell the new songs were going to be a live hit. We were treated to a handful of tracks from the new album and all of them received the same chaotic crowd response, people losing their shit and their voices while the band proceeded to deliver waves of crunchy hooks and bouncy upstroke rhythms loaded with pulsing brass melodies. Of course some of the classics came out, "Bull in a China Shop" always causes a ruckus along with the likes of "House of Cards" and "Youth". This was the first set of the weekend to see the punk crowd do what they do best, go nuts, jump on each other, dance about and just lose themselves to the music and it was beautiful to see. Faintest Idea proved themselves again to be one of the most enjoyable bands to watch. [9]

Sniff @ 17:35-18:05 at YES

I headed over to YES for the only time this weekend of a double barrel booking of Sniff, followed by Stoj Snak. Alex from Sniff took the stage with their popular projector and backing track set up as we were treated to a range of catchy indie punk with a raw garage rock hint to it. Alex proceeded to perform songs with projections relating to each song behind them, whether that is just the lyrics, or clips of the songwriter running around and acting silly. To mimic this nature, part way through the set Alex stripped down to his underwear and smeared lipstick maniacally over his mouth and continued to parade around the stage. Still the most humorous segment remained the part where you have the singer interacting and bicker with pre recordings on the projector as if they were live and sentient. It’s an incredibly clever moment and nicely breaks up an entertaining set. The only let down was some of the people towards the back were talking too loud for you to completely catch some of the skits between songs. [7]

Stoj Snak @ 18:20-19:00 at YES

Danish outfit Stoj Snak followed up on the intimate YES stage with more of a musical masterpiece on show as waves of raw-acoustic folk punk performed with incredible intricacy and more of a hardcore punk attitude. It may have sounded unplugged, but it was hard, fast and full of beans. Lead man Niels Højgaard Sørensen was backed up by a couple of percussionists, one wearing a type of skiffle band washboard and the other playing a stand up drum setup. Amusingly there was confusion over who was going to use the washboard at first. The atmosphere was incredibly joyful and fun, even during some of Neils more shouted and angst ridden moments. The highlight came when some tambourines and various other hand held percussion instruments were handed into the crowd to play along. The drummer would signal when it was the right time to play, though of course we had a few silly punk fans who wanted to break those rules, much to everyone’s merriment. This escalated further towards the end of the set as the band proceeded to walk into the crowd while playing, with those few tambourine players in the crowd following and jingling along with them. Everywhere you looked there was a smile on a punter's face. [8]

Kill Lincoln @ 19:50-20:40 at Gorilla

This may have been Kill Lincoln’s first ever tour in the UK, but they were the first band of the weekend to hit stage capacity. The Gorilla venue was crammed, smelling of beer and sweat, it smelled of gig as ska punk fans came to party with the DC third wave act. Kicking right in with “Used It” It was like sunshine hit the stage, bright atmosphere loaded with uplifting melodies and enchanting brass hooks. It was chaos in the crowd, excited fans sang along to every word and horn line while others opened the pits. One of the most intriguing things about Kill Lincoln was they had their own hype guy in Drew, and it didn’t take long for him to join the crowd carnage, it literally dived in and took part in the mess, encouraging more madness. Kill Lincoln ploughed through songs from their 2020 album “Can’t Complain” including performing the highly energetic title track which is more like a skate punk track with horns. One familiar face was Summers from Leeds pop-punk band Eat Defeat, who was playing bass for Kill Lincoln on this tour. Summers looked right at home on stage with the ska punks. The highlight of the set came from trombone player Ume, who decided he would head to the back of the room and play the horn riff to older classic “Pralines & Dick” while leaning over the seating barrier. Ume then crowd surfed back to the front of the room while still playing. The energy was relentless from start to finish, I lost count how many people flew off the stage, I’m pretty sure Joe and Sean from Random Hand dived into the crowd one after the other at one point. Kill Lincoln closed the set with their most popular hit “Good Riddance to Good Advice”, to which the crowd singing “SAY GOODBYE!/SAY GOODNIGHT” was deafening. This set was nothing short of outstanding, from the band performance to the crowd reaction. Ska is definitely not dead. [9]

Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Off With Their Heads @ 20:50-22:00 at The Union

It feels harsh to say, but anything following that Kill Lincoln set was always going to come off as slightly underwhelming in comparison. Much like last year when I followed Redeemon with The Skints. The sheer difference in intensity levels was vast. This was a horrible headline clash to have, with Big D and the Kids Table on one stage and The Restarts with another, but I chose to see a band I hadn’t seen before, perform their album “Home” in its entirety. By the time I reached The Union, the crowd was packed and Off With Their Heads were already in full steam unloading their melodic gruff punk sound. The first thing I saw was somebody bouncing on top of the crowd, The Union was full of life. It was expected that the band would be playing “Home” from start to finish, though while my knowledge of the band isn’t the best, it was clear that it was performed in a random order, which I can’t lie is a little disappointing. I do think these concept sets should be played as advertised. Not that it took anything away from the enjoyments of the pure fans who were having a blast towards the front. I spotted plenty of rowdiness and fans losing their voices. The performance itself was solid, fuzzy riffs topped off by Ryan Youngs distinctive husky voice. It was nice to watch, it just wasn’t quite as captivating as I’d perhaps hoped. Having seen bands perform an album set before” I think I just expected more from it. [7]

Lead Shot Hazard @ 23:00-23:30 at The Bread Shed

To close my night, I had another horrible clash to deal with. Knife Club perform an album launch set at Rebellion or ska punks Lead Shot Hazard at The Bread Shed. With zero disrespect to Lead Shot Hazard, My instincts were that Knife Club was going to be the busier of the two. Being a TNS supergroup and following their brilliant set last year, I figured they might be the more popular band to see out of the two and thought Lead Shot might need the support. I was wrong in thinking the ska punks would need help filling the room, and was pleasantly surprised that the crowd in the Bread Shed grew to the point the venue was practically packed out. With harder hitting skacore type tracks “Hacky Sack? Let’s Have a Rebellion” and “Red/Blue/Black”, crunchy riffs and soulful yet boppy brass melodies flooded the room and frantic dancing erupted in the fun zone. Fans shouted the choruses back at the band, this was one of the most vibrant responses I’d witnessed for the band in a while. A lot of the songs were from the band’s 2019 album “Fires To Find Our Friends”, including the joyful “Braggin’ Right” where the brass players head into the crowd to dance about with audience members during the verse segments. Lead Shot have some new material in their arsenal, one song in particular was so hard hitting, it was more like a ska-metal number loaded with more furious riffage and serious sounding horns. A hit that encouraged harder dancing and crowd surfing galore. A nicer surprise was that Lead Shot pulled out some older favourites from their “War & Pieces” EP, with “Grids & Markers” and “Current State of Play” for some nostalgia. This was the perfect set to end my night, buzzing energy, and jolly vibes throughout. This might have been one of the best sets I’ve seen from the ska punks. [8]


Casual Nausea @ 14:50-15:20 at The Union

I started my day as the last night finished off, catching one of my favourite bands do what they do best. Ipswich angst-ridden punks took to the Sizeable Union stage with a look of both excitement and nerves. But it didn’t take long for them to get in the groove of unleashing their brand of aggressive riff driven crust punk with a catchy flavour to it. Kicking right in with “Vote” followed back to back with “Cockroaches”, “DIY or Die” and “Move On”, the first four tracks from their album “Demons” just flowed into each other so fluidly as circle pits opened and human pyramids commenced. The energy matched the frantic music blasting from the stage. The room had packed out and the crowd was responding positively to every song, singing and chanting along to Simon and Zoe’s duel vocals. When the band did take a small break Zoe did a bit of a happy cry to the love the crowd showed the band. The popular anthems continued, and you could truly appreciate that Casual Nausea had catered songs that worked both as riotous pit starters and singalong anthems, especially with the likes of "Predator" and "Empty Rewards". I’m yet to see Casual Nausea disappoint, the Ipswich crew are modest but can handle a crowd with ease and get incredible responses out of them. Excellent start to the day. [8]

Laughing In The Face Of @ 15:50-16:30 at Gorilla

I headed over to Gorilla to catch Birmingham based frantic skate punks Laughing In The Face Of, to my surprise the band was not only running late in setting up due to traffic issues, but the lead singer/guitarist had also fallen off the stage in a rush to set up and busted his ankle. He did manage to power on and not need to use the seat he pulled on stage as a precaution. This did mean the set would be cut shorter to allow the rest of the stage sets not over run too much. Once they did get under way the band launched into an aural onslaught of shredding riffs, mind blowing technicality and haywire time signatures that could make any musician question their own talent. It was the type of sound that the Lockjaw Records faithful appreciate and there were some familiar scene faces in the crowd to back that up. Early in the day still, the crowd wasn’t the busiest or the most responsive, you could tell that people were into what was on display with the appreciative head nods to the heavy grooves, wonderful musicianship but it wouldn’t go down as a classic. [6]

Heathcliff @ 16:50-17:30 at The Bread Shed

Heathcliff weren’t on my radar at all until they were announced for MPF, then once I checked them out they became a must see for me on this bill. A German punk band that incorporates mostly erratic skate punk formalities with an added ska punk flavour. For the most part you are met with pacey shredded hooks, then the next it could be bouncy reggae upstrokes. Their cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” was a prime example. It’s a fun twist to the skate punk genre. The Bread Shed was semi full but those who attended were loaded with enthusiasm to rock out to the equally zestful display of riffs upon riffs on top of persistently pounding drumwork. Vocally it was balanced out by chirpy melodic punk hooks, adding a bubbly tone to the hard hitting punk that hit our ears. Most of the set was from the band’s 2021 album “Stay Posi”, with the likes of “Captain’s Call” standing out for the huge shout out’s and big breakdown blasts. Heathcliff has been on a small tour with Melonball and took the opportunity to bring on their singer Oli for a song. I didn’t quite pick up on what it was, but she did a fantastic job in showcasing her melodic vocal talents. Guest appearances always add excitement. That along with covers, one of the more interesting twists was a skate punk cover of Pendulum’s “Witchcraft”, reconfigured from a drum and bass hit to a punchy punk number. It worked impressively well. Much like the previous set I watched, it wasn’t the most chaotic set in terms of response. There were some moshes and crowd surfers every now and then, but nothing too wild. It was just a nice set to appreciate some fast melodic music. [7]

For I Am @ 17:50-18:30 at The Bread Shed

I had a small whinge about the clashes last night between headliners and then the after party bands. This may have been the hardest one for me to choose from. Over at YES was skacoustic act Boom Boom Racoon, at The Union there was third wave ska punk darlings Call Me Malcolm, then remaining at The Bread Shed was Belgian pop-punks For I Am. My choice was to see a band I’ve never seen before and less likely to see as often. This was an overload of uplifting tones, laced with the most buoyant, sunshiney riffs and vocal melodies I heard all weekend. Somewhat expected, the crowd was rather thin, but again, those who were in The Bread Shed gave it their all to make sure the band felt appreciated. The band mimicked that enthusiasm with positive energy oozing from the stage, a lot of that from the ever so charismatic Hanne on vocal duties. It was all very lovely to watch, but I wasn’t as familiar with the band as I thought, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something special over at The Union, so I decided to skip with a few songs left to go. [7]

Call Me Malcolm @ 17:40-18:20 at The Union

I was right. I approached The Union with Call Me Malcolm mid set and thriving in a full room going crazy to the ska punk on show. The first full track I caught was “I Bet They’re Asleep In New York”, and it was as much pandemonium as Kill Lincoln was the night before. Pits had opened for the pounding riffage and pulsing horns, leaving room for the skank segments in between. For the chorus it was deafening as everyone screamed the words back at Luke. The real highlight of course was the love letter to the UK ska scene that is “All My Nameless friends” as soon as the song kicked in a human pyramid took place followed by more pit action as Luke proceeded give mention to a majority of the UK ska punk bands in song form along with giving a lot of love to everyone attends their shows. Of course in true Malcolm form the bridge was met with the usual split in the crowd and an encouragement of a wall of cuddles, a wonderful mess to witness” followed shortly by the band’s iconic “WOAH” outro chant. Something that carried on even after the band stopped playing their instruments leaving the crowd to chant a cappella. Part of me wished I’d watched the entire set, but I’m glad I took the opportunity to watch someone new. Even for the bite size portion I caught, it was a pure highlight of the weekend. [9]

Snuff - Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Snuff @ 19:50-20:40 at The Bread Shed

Back at The Bread Shed it was time for some old school punk with ska influences in the form of Snuff. A late but very welcome addition to the MPF bill, a decision well made by the organisers with the Bread Shed rammed for the punk legends. If there is one thing you can expect from a Snuff set, is a silly and fun atmosphere, lots of amusing banter between fast but merry punk anthems. One of the more notable things was that the age group in the core crowd area was higher than average compared to a lot of other sets I saw at MPF. Fans closer to their 40s than 30s, but that slowed nobody down in the fun zone. It was perhaps more vibrant than most too with plenty of movement, lots of dancing, moshing and a continuous wave of people floating about the crowd. My knowledge of Snuff’s vast catalogue isn’t the strongest, but a couple of popular hits stood out, The horn-filled number “Dippy Egg” along with the older hit, “Soul Limbo” with its salsa inspired intro. This encouraged a rather entertaining conga line of punters worming their way through the crowd before the faster punk elements kicked in to create more pit chaos. You can rarely go wrong with Snuff, you know what you’re getting with some entertainment and punk music. Solid performance once again. [8]

The Flatliners - Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

The Flatliners @ 20:50-22:00 at The Union

I have a love/hate relationship with The Flatliners, I love their first album “Destroy To Create”, but I hate that they never play from it. I will however move past my ska punk fan bias and appreciate that the Canadians have evolved into one of the finer melodic punk bands out there. As expected, The Flatliners launched right into material from their latest album “New Ruin”, kicked off with “Performative Hours”, we were met with intense pummeling beats, crooning guitar whines and Chris Cresswells distinctive husky, yet melodic and enchanting vocals. It was a powerful gripping start to the set, that was followed by a fairly balanced layout of songs. The Canadians combined melody and intensity, all the while with Cresswell proving himself to be one of the better punk vocalists going. His raspy singshouty style was infectious, you couldn’t help but be enchanted.

The Flatliners - Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

The setlist itself was a nice mix, featuring more chilled out numbers like "Hang My Head", counteracted by sprightly hits like "Resuscitation of the Year" and "The Calming Collection". These tracks led to plenty of crowd surfing. Some of the newer tracks stood out more as harder hitters, with more anthemic style choruses, “Oath” for one, much like the opener portrayed crunchier riffs and more powerful, almost throat tearing shouts. This was one of the more enjoyable tracks in the whole set, along with “Rat King”. This was a bit lighter in comparison during the verse, but once the chorus hit, those distorted hooks and steady beats pummelled your ears with the catchy chorus. There were plenty of classics, but for me the newer tracks shone above the rest, proving “New Ruin” to be the most enjoyable album for me since “Destroy To Create”. “Eulogy” closed off the set perfectly, an emotional melodic punk hit that can bring a tear to your eye as a room full of punks sing “You will always be remembered/You will be celebrated”, a beautiful end to a delightful performance. [8]

The plan was to head to Rebellion to catch the grafteoke performances along with the covers sets, In Evil Hour as AFI and Call Me Malcolm as Reel Big Fish. But it seemed that almost all of the festival decided to do the same. In true first come first serve, if you weren’t early enough in the queue, you weren’t getting in. By the time I got there, the amount of people ahead of me in the queue was the capacity of the venue. Desperately needing a piss at the point I gave up waiting and decided to leave the queue and rest up before one more day of music.


Slackrr @ 15:00-15:30 at The The Bread Shed

Torn by what to watch early on, the first band on my list to watch was Fidget & The Twitchers at The Bread Shed, but I decided to head down sooner to see what Slackrr had to offer. I soon realised this was the poppiest of pop-punk sets. Bubble hooks, high-pitched New Found Glory-esque vocals and a joyful tone. Occasionally some easycore style bruising breakdowns were thrown our way, musically giving it that Four Year Strong Vibe. You had some eager fans early on but the crowd was pretty thin, being the first set of the day. Weirdly the most stand out part of the set was the attempt to encourage a Wembley style encore, joking that one song was going to be their last one, have the crowd chant one more song then play one more. Unfortunately that was actually the end of the set which looked a little awkward. Strange end to a chirpy set.[6]

Fidget & The Twitchers @ 15:50-16:30 at The Bread Shed

Ska-punks Fidget and the Twitchers followed up by taking to the stage in the funkiest of outfits. The best way to describe it is like their wardrobe was inspired by The Mighty Boosh. It was quirky and it matched the charismatic music launched our way. A wave of vibrant ska punk to get the masses dancing, and those masses danced as “I’ve Got Steam” erupted from the stage. The Fidget sound was rather eclectic, loaded with horns and occasionally a keytar to boot. Fans moved about like they also had steam, dancing, and singing along. The set was dominated by tracks from the band’s album “Full Steam Ahead”;you see the pattern here. Featuring “Big Man”, a song about toxic masculinity, and “Polyperv”, a NSFW song about polyamory. The latter of the two shone with some soulful duet vocals before the punchy ska punk hooks kicked in. While I’ve been aware of this band for a while, I’d mostly slept on them, realising in this set I had made a mistake. There is a captivating energy to the band, the music screams of danceability, it was pure party vibes with all the usual pit antics of crowd surfers and pyramids. If you want an exciting and emerging ska punk band, this is one to stick on the list. [8]

Catbite - Photo courtesy of Mark Richards

Catbite @ 16:40-17:20 at The Union

Over at The Union, Catbite were about ready to launch into their biggest UK show to date on their first tour in this country. It was safe to say they had a strong fan base here as the room was rather full for the new-tone ska punks. Loaded with a blend of two-tone and modern punk rock, this was all out happy vibes. Right from the start, singer Brittany acted as the first band member I witnessed to actually encourage a human pyramid this weekend, usually it's a random occurrence. That was apparently the band's first one ever, it’s just not done in America we’re told. After that moment of excitement Catbite flowed into a set loaded with tracks from their most recent album “Nice One”. The almost Rancid inspired “Call Your Bluff”, laden with bouncy upstrokes and bubbly singalong nature, along with the more “No Doubt” influence poppier “Excuse Me Miss”, both designed to get the crowd dancing and it delivered sublimely with fans moving their feet. The Absolute highlight of their set came from their popular hit “Scratch Me Up”, in which they had a room full of fans with their arms in the air like claws scratching away. This type of antic is where you can see rockstars in the making. It’s up there with Skindred’s Newport Helicopter for originality and encouraging crowd participation. I look forward to seeing them do that in a larger venue. And judging from this crowd size and its reaction, larger venues are swiftly on the horizon in Europe. Fun ska punk vibes with a retro flavour to it. It’s very 90s sounding, but not out of place in the slightest. Wonderful performance. [8]

Melonball @ 17:50-18:30 at The Bread Shed

While Goodbye Blue Monday was the popular choice in this slot, I wanted to catch the emerging skate punk outfit Melonball who had just released their album “Breathe”. This was balls to the wall impassioned fast-punk performed at breakneck speed with snappy vocal melodies. It screamed of Tsunami Bomb inspiration, and tornado-like destructive pits opened up to the frantic beats and crunchy hooks. Singer Oli unleashed a perky vocal style to balance out the harder hitting music on show, the combo worked well and was wonderfully received by the Manchester crowd. It was particularly fun when Melonball covered The Outfield’s “Your Love”, much to the delight in the crowd as they sang along to the poppy rock cover turned into a skate punk hit. I’m still new to the band and only the highly catchy song “Sicker” truly stood out to me. Other tracks were quite a blur but still highly enjoyable to watch. [7]

Harijan - Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Harijan @ 18:40-19:20 at The Union

I’ve felt since the release of their self-titled album in 2020, Harijan have been one of the most underrated ska-punk bands on the scene. Breaking from the happy-go-lucky norm of ska-punk and providing us with still the most depressing and downbeat tones in the genre. It adds a gritty flavour to skankable melodies and while Mike’s sang about everyday problems in his highly recognisable husky style. . I’ve managed to review Harijan before at sets in the south of England, but now on home turf in Manchester, I was excited to see a stronger crowd reaction and I wasn’t disappointed as the skank pits opened and large amount of people danced about to the working class ska hit Boxpacker. The majority of songs were from the new album, but we were treated to a still to be named new song that had a wonderful brass melody to it. “Portland Street” proved to be a fan favourite with plenty of people singing along to the words and even the horn melodies. A strong enjoyable set from the ska outfit. [8]

Millie Manders & The Shut Up - Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Millie Manders & The Shut Up @ 19:40-20:30 at The Union

For someone who has seen Millie Manders a lot over the last 8 years, It had occurred to me that the last time was 4 years ago at Manchester Punk Festival in 2019, where she had filled the Gorilla venue. It was only inevitable that this time round she would be doing the same in the even larger Union room. Since then Millie Manders & The Shut Up had become less of a ska-punk band and had evolved into more of a rock band that incorporated horn melodies. Even then, this time the horns were utilised in backing tracks instead of performed live. What hadn’t changed was the sheer charisma and stage presence that Manders exhibited. A rock star character with a powerful voice that was primed for huge melodic choruses. The newer songs were catered well for the big singalongs, “Here We Go Again” and “Bitter” worked great for getting the room to join in on the vocal duties with furious riffage causing pit carnage towards the front. We were treated to some older, more skankable classics, like “Obsession Transgression” and drinking song “Bacchus”, encouraging the crowd to drink up every time she sang the word “Drink”, which was a lot. “Your Story” remained the big hit in Manders’ arsenal as a monster sized anthem to get a crowd losing their voice. It was phenomenal to witness the room singing along. Millie Manders & The Shut Up continue to impress the more they evolve. [8]

Wonk Unit - Photo courtesy of Michael Steff

Wonk Unit @ 20:50-22:00 at The Union

Manders might have been in their prime. Unfortunately Wonk Unit were not, at least not frontman Alex who seemed a bit worse for wear and sounded even worse than that. His voice to no lie was fucked. But credit to the singer, he gave it a jolly good go. Leading in with the not so seasonal “Christmas In A Crackhouse”, a downbeat melodic opener. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick around. The tone was dry, and the mood felt lacklustre. But the minute the band launched into “Depressed?” a more hardcore inspired song that gave Alex licence to shout, the hoarse sounding voice became more appealing. The mood in the room lifted and Wonk Unit brushed off the fucked voice as a joke. Alex was joined on stage by Alice from In Evil hour for “Horses”, a fun random guest appearance as she jumped on stage from the crowd. The silly vibes continued with “Bicycles” and in true Wonk Unit nature, Alex listened to crowd requests instead of strictly going by a setlist. Going off the cuff like this gave a much fresher feel to the set. I believe it was “Disco Fever” and “Guts” chosen by crowd members. Back to the silliness, Wonk Unit decided to dust off their ska-punk inspired track “Spooky House”, a wonderful rarity and their only fictional song. Towards the back end of the set, the classics were pulled out, “Je M’appelle Alex” and “Go Easy” proving to be some of DIY punks biggest anthems receiving tremendous responses around the room. For a set that looked like it could have turned foul early on, it quickly turned into an enjoyable set. This was not really Wonk at their performance best, but in terms of persistence and character, you can’t question the band’s ethics in delivering a fun show. [8]


There have been comments about this being the best MPF yet. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with that statement. I found certain parts of last year far more memorable in a long lasting sense. However the atmosphere at this year’s festival felt a lot more jubilant. There was more of a party mood, like the air from covid had been lifted. Looking around, even the organisers seemed far more relaxed this year. Meaning it looked like this year was running a lot smoother than last year, which can only be a good thing. It also makes it look promising for years to come for the event. What I will agree on is that MPF remains the best UK DIY-run punk event. The friends you met in previous years are back and it felt like we were all one big punk family. The wide range and selection of bands was incredible from the first announcement to the last. I did find the undercard more appealing than the headliner selection this time round. But that’s more of a personal preference and it didn’t take away from any of those headliners putting on solid sets. Each year MPF is consistent in putting together a phenomenal lineup, and I have no doubt they will do the same again.

As usual, we’ll finish off our article with our classic The Good, The Bad, The Ugly section:


  • Being in the city centre means all kinds of food and drink outlets are nearby along with accommodation.
  • All of the venues are within a 10-minute radius of each other, with most of them in very close vicinity. This was very easy to navigate.
  • The venues had also remained the same as last year, meaning if you had been before, it was easy to remember where to go.
  • Great variety in the lineup. While it was all punk, the subgenres of hardcore, folk, ska, skate-punk, pop-punk, and more provided a great mix and a lot of options.
  • Unlike last year, the amount of last minute changes to the lineup and dropouts was kept to a minimal.
  • Security seemed a lot nicer than last year, especially on the door, a lot more welcoming
  • Great vibes and lots of different types of alcoholic beverages to choose between.
  • Ska isn’t only not dead. It is thriving You can go to this festival as the ultimate proof
  • For the most part, no queues to venues, except at the opening of each day.
  • Generally a good stage selection: most bands played at appropriate stages for their size


  • Venue capacity levels, admittedly this was warned by organisers that people should get to venues early if there are certain bands they consider a must-see. Though it’s still disappointing for some punters if they can’t get in. One of the minor setbacks of a great weekend.
  • Security was massively improved compared to last year, however it was spotted during The Flatliners set they weren’t particularly caring towards crowdsurfers, with some being rather heavy handed.

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